Yellowstone releases winter use rule; conservationists approve

Oct 22, 2013

The National Park Service has released Yellowstone National Park’s winter use rule. After 15 years of gathering public feedback and scientific data, the new rule will govern how many over-snow vehicles will be allowed in the park.

Instead of capping traffic with a specific number, the new rule will allow 110 “transportation events” a day, broken down up to 60 snow coach excursions, and 50 snowmobile groups.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition spokesman Jeff Welsch says his conservation group is pleased with the new rule. The coalition originally opposed allowing snowmobiles into the park at all because they were noisy and caused pollution, and their drivers often acted recklessly.

“The issue has come so far, going back to when rangers had to wear gas masks at the entrance station and bison were chased on narrow roads,” Welsch says.

Yellowstone Park Superintendent Dan Wenk says they require the “best available” snowmobile technology be used, reducing carbon emissions by 25-percent and noise by 75 percent.

“It’s been incumbent upon us to try to make sure that this is the most pristine kind of visit that you can have; That if you enter the park, you will not have the noise of snowmobiles or snow coaches, that you’ll be able to stand in the Geyser Basin at Old Faithful and you‘ll be able not only see the geyser, you’ll be able to hear the falling water,” Wenk says.

Wenk says most winter travelers in the park will still need to be accompanied by commercial guides, but some snowmobilers will be able to get certified online and ride through the park unguided.

You can hear an interview with Yellowstone Park Superintendent Dan Wenk Friday and Sunday on Open Spaces.